In the 1960s, a land that had been ruled for decades by a right-wing religious authoritarian would become secular — could Turkey have the same destiny?

Years ago we had the church. That was only a way of saying we had each other.

Frank Costello, The Departed

For the last 20 years, Turkey has been ruled by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party of AKP. He has been a champion of religious conservatism, Turkish nationalism, Islamism and also radical neoliberalism. His quest is to end secularism in Turkey, and instead, he is trying to implement a modernised version of conservative Islamism. He is being able to do this because the vast majority of the population of Turkey is religious and conservative. In 2023, after years of lagging in the polls, Erdogan was able to defeat his secular opposition and guarantee himself another five-year mandate to rule Turkey. All of this he achieved despite his corruption, authoritarianism, erosion of democratic liberties and objective economic mismanagement. 

All of this bears a lot of similarities with the story of the Catholic Church in Quebec and the influence it had on French Canadian society. The story of clerical nationalists, however, had a much more abrupt ending for their rule over the French-Canadians. After decades of holding onto power through elections and winning against their liberal opposition both in Quebec and Ottawa, the Catholic clerics and the right-wing politicians could not change the cultural changes that had happened in their own country. They would eventually lose their power, their influence and the influence of the Catholic Church in Canada would disappear with them, in a phenomenon called the Quiet Revolution or La Revolution Tranquille. Nowadays, Quebec is a secular province, where religious conservatism is reduced to a fringe movement and where the idea of the nation is no longer associated with the faith.  All this was not imposed by the political establishment but rather came from the ground to the top. This article will compare the history of the clerical nationalists in Quebec with the political Islamists in Turkey, more specifically Erdogan and his AKP. We will see their similarities and we will also contrast the situation of Turkish society nowadays with the one of Quebec in the 1960s.

Turkey and the Story of a Modernist Political Islamism

Islamism is defined as the application of Islamic principles into politics. Normally, Islamism tends to be associated with the most extreme and radical versions of Islam such as Wahabism, Salafism or even Yihadism. However, this is a very simplistic way of viewing political Islam. Religion and politics have always been very connected, but in the same way Christian politics cannot be limited to radical fundamentalism, political Islam should not be subject to generalisation or oversimplification. In fact, one of the best examples of how varied political Islamism can get is Turkey

For centuries, Turkey and the Ottomans were the bastions of Sunni Islam. During the early years of the 20th century, young intellectuals and military officers merged the ideas of political Islam with a new ethnic-based Turkish nationalism. This group, known as the Young Turks, would reach power by the early 1910s. However, their ended after the First World War and especially after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took over the country. He abolished the caliphate and set the country on a radical path of Westernisation and secularisation. Atatürk saw that the guidance of Islam had led to backwardness and stagnation, putting the country at risk of being colonised by European nations. Because of this, Islam was banished from public places and it lost all the influence it had on politics. In order to adapt, new Islamic scholars would produce texts that attempted to reconcile the ideas of Islamism with modernity. This is the example of Said Nursi, a Kurdish theologian who wrote texts in the 1920s about how Islam should embrace ideas of modernity such as democracy or tolerance. At the same time, the new Republic was being closely watched by the military who, after Atatürk’s death, would remain the guardian of secularism in the nation.

In 1950, the Kemalist Republican People’s Party was defeated in the election and Adnan Menderes, from the Democratic Party, took power. Even though he is described as an Islamist, he never tried to undermine the secular aspect of the republic but rather tried to expand the liberties of Islamic practising communities. For example, he allowed the opening of religious schools under government supervision and allowed the prayer in Arabic. The victory of Menderes showed that the regime could not be secular and democratic with a population that still strongly remained rural and religious. 

Menderes also broke away from the state-run and planned economic models and moved to a type of free-market economic policy. This had the consequence of driving many poor farmers out of the countryside since they no longer could compete with the large landowners. This Islamic conservatism and his gradual turn to authoritarianism granted him a lot of enemies in the army. Menderes would try to sack the Kemalist officers, but this resulted in a coup d’etat in 1960 and his subsequent execution. After the coup of 1960, two new currents in Islamism would start growing in the 1960s and 70s. 

On the one hand,  there was a new current of Islamist theologues and ideologues that tried to marry the ideas of Islamic conservative values with republican and modern values. This movement was led by leaders like Fethullah Gülen. He and his movement created a series of private and charter schools that taught in a Western way with also teachings in Turkish conservative values were implemented. These schools are based on the American-styled Christian Conservative movement schools. They would educate a new generation of Turkish conservatives that would try to resemble the European conservatives. The Gülen movement tried to bring a new approach to Islam and also make it a more acceptable idea to the secular elites, in their fight against a bigger enemy: communism. These, and many other changes in Turkish politics, would lead to the victory in 1983 of Turgut Özal, a new style of neoliberal conservative in the likes of Regan, Thatcher or Lubbers, mixing free market economics with a socially conservative undertone. 

The second Islamist movement would be of radical religious nationalists. These would mix ethno-nationalist discourse that originated from the Young Turks with radical socially conservative messages, against secularism. The main architect of this new brand of political Islamism was Necmettin Erbakan and his Welfare Party. He was a supporter of radical conservatism and sharia law but they also advocated a strong welfare state based on Islamic values, which made them very popular among the poorer voters. His party was also very connected to the far-right terrorist group, the Grey Wolves.

The economic policies of Ozal and other neoliberal Islamists had resulted in massive economic inequality.  This tends to be the explanation of why people started fluctuating towards Erbakan leading to him winning the 1995 election with 21% of the vote. As mentioned before, the policies of Adnan Menderes had forced tens of thousands of farmers from the Anatolian countryside into the cities seeking work. These Anatolians, in the next decades, would inundate the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. They would build new neighbourhoods, with very poor quality housing and close to no services, without water and heating and targeted by criminals. These slums would be called “Gecekondu” with the literal translation into Turkish being “Built Overnight”. However, that did not stop them from coming and between 1950 and 1995 the population of Istanbul went from 1 million to 7 million and Ankara’s from 200 thousand to 3 million. This demographic change had a lot of impact on Turkish politics. Rural families tended to be larger and once they moved to the cities they took that socio-cultural structure with them, as well as their religious values. By the 1990s, millions of Gecekondu kids could vote and the economic inequality and the alienation they felt from Turkey’s secular rulers led them to the Islamic Nationalism of Erbakan.

Gecekondu neighbourhood in Izmir. Picture by Veyis Polat, via Flickr.

In 1996 Erbakan became Prime Minister, but only for a year since in 1997, the army published a memorandum threatening a Coup which made him resign. It was clear that an alliance was needed between the different conservative forces and that this version of Islamic nationalism would need a new leader. This was done by a man who had grown up on those Gecekondu, and as an Islamic conservative would become Mayor of Istanbul and the longest ruler of Turkey since Atatürk: Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The Sultan 

The story of Erdogan begins in a Gecekondu of Istanbul. He would grow up in one of those Gecekondu families. He would join Erbakan’s Welfare Party and by appealing to those masses of conservative-minded poor working class families in Istanbul he would win the Mayoral elections of 1994. Thus, one of the most progressive and modernist cities in Turkey,  a symbol of Republican secularism, elected an Islamic Mayor.  However, it would be very simplistic to dismiss Erdogan as a simple “Islamist”. He was trying to bring together all the different elements of Turkish conservatism around him: the populist appeal of radical Islamists, with the more moderate appeal and alliances with business that the neoliberal Islamists had. By 2001 a new party was founded uniting all of these forces: the Justice and Development Party or AKP. The AKP would be supported by Fethullah Gülen and his movement, as a culmination of a creation of a modernist Islamist conservative movement. This new party encompassing all different branches of Turkish Conservatism would manage to win a majority in the 2003 general election and Erdogan would become Prime Minister.

Erdogan supporters. Picture by M. Meissner for Deutsche Welle News.

There are two periods in his tenure that must be talked about. The first five years of his rule were marked by a clear rapprochement to Europe, especially France and Germany. Meanwhile, he would try to enact policies against secularism but branding them in a way that seemed modern. For instance, Erdogan supported the voluntary usage of the headscarf by women in public places including the political sphere. This might seem like a move against secularisation, considering the headscarf’s significance in Islam, but he branded it instead as a movement in favour of women, who could now choose whether they wanted to wear the headscarf or not.

From 2007 onwards, however, things started to change. Erdogan’s policies became increasingly conservative and nationalistic. He would increase his partnerships with the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organisation with a presence throughout the Arab world. This was done mostly after the Arab Spring, as a way of increasing the influence of Turkey in the region. The rule of law would slowly be erased and Erdogan would transform his rule to be increasingly authoritarian. From 2011 onward, the new policies that they were implementing had a growing Islamic undertone, policies that intended to take women out of the workforce or the re-conversion of the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. The reason for this is also geopolitical; by the end of the 2000s, it was becoming clearer and clearer that the Europeans were not planning to allow Turkey to enter into the Union any time soon. 

He would increase the presence of Islam in public life, something which angered the more secular sectors of society, including his former ally Fethullah Gülen and most importantly the army. They tried to overthrow Erdogan in a coup in 2016 but to their surprise, the same people who had been protesting against Erdogan for the past years, were now protesting against them and the coup failed. Erdogan used this opportunity to purge the nation’s military but also journalists and academics, anyone who might question his power. This would increase his powers and with it the process of Islamization in society.

The biggest foreign policy action that Erdogan would try to enact in the last 5 years would be against the Kurds, an Indo-Iranian people living in the middle of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Turkish state had conflicted with the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK since the 80s, but in the 2010s Erdogan used this fight against the PKK as an excuse to militarily intervene in Syria against the YPG, another Kurdish armed group that was fighting ISIS. He did this as a way of rallying around the flag and presenting himself as the only leader who could stop Kurdish terrorism. However, in a way, he would be the one escalating the conflict by intervening in Syria and other groups that are not the PKK.  

Economically he tried to combine the welfare of the Welfare Party with neoliberal politics of the 1980s. He did this as a way of guaranteeing stability within the country (especially among rural Turks) and a way of increasing the economic output of the country, which would be very useful for foreign policy reasons. However, what ended up happening was that the AKP would establish a network based on clientelism among rural Turks, with services working as long as the AKP was in power. On a macroeconomic level, Erdogan’s economic policy would be plagued with corruption and crony capitalism. State contracts would be granted to those businessmen who were politically close to the AKP. His policies, despite granting welfare to poor Turks, would actually increase inequality in the country. Also, the corruption in the construction business would lead to some of the buildings they built being of very poor quality which resulted in the complete destruction in the Turkish earthquake of 2023. 

However, during the last 10 years, a new social phenomenon would appear in Turkish politics. Turkey has a relatively young population. Many of them live in cities like Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir. They are the grandchildren of those farmers who would move from the countryside to the gecekondu. However, unlike their parents and grandparents, this youth who had grown up in a completely urban environment, who had probably gone to University and who had grown up under the new Islamist government of Erdogan would start to heavily resent his rule. The Turkish youth of today are mostly secular and more liberal-leaning than their parents. This is driving big cities back into the hands of the Republican opposition. In 2018 for instance, the AKP would lose Istanbul, electing a mayor from the Kemalist CHP Party and in 2019 the same thing happened in Akara. This is also the youth that has grown up resenting the authoritarianism, not only of Erdogan but also of the social conservative forces that brought him to power. For instance, tens of thousands of people protested against the murder of liberal Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

In 2023 all of the opposition converged at the same time to present a common candidature against Erdogan, who was CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. He would be eventually defeated, although for one of the thinnest margins in Turkish history. It seemed that the nationalist messages, targeting Kurds and Syrian refugees, still were very influential among many people, especially older Turks. Nevertheless, the societal changes that almost ended Erdogan’s regime in 2023 won’t probably go away any time soon. Every year more young people become able to vote and if the economic situation does not improve they will still rally against Erdogan. He came to power because society was more Islamic and religious than the military or the Kemalist elite were able to admit, However in an ironic twist, Erdogan will no longer have to face an ever increasingly secular population, to which the same messages he had to use to come to power won’t apply. 

Quebec and Clerical Nationalism

Now the question is: what does Quebec have to do with any of this? Well, the history of French Canadians is actually very closely connected to Ultramontanism, a radical version of Catholicism. Since the beginning of Canadian parliamentary democracy, their lives have been controlled by the Church and consequently, things like separation between church and state, welfare politics or even female suffrage would arrive much later in Quebec than in any other region of North America.

After the British conquered French North America, the only institution that remained in Quebec was the Catholic Church. This meant that Catholicism was now one of the main factors of French Canadian identity, which led to an ideology called Clerical Nationalism, which mixed French nationalism, Christian traditionalism and Christian thought. This meant that any politician who wanted to gain votes in rural Quebec needed to do so without angering the very reactionary French Canadian Catholic Church. This meant that most aspects of everyday life were completely controlled by Catholic Institutions. Be it schools, hospitals, newspapers, or sports clubs, the church ruled over every aspect of French-Canadian society. Meanwhile, a more secular and progressive view of French Canadian identity existed in cities like Montreal, where the influence of the Church was smaller.  Because of the closeness of the Canadian Conservatives to the British Empire, the Clerical Nationalists were voting together with the Liberal Party, which would rule the province from 1900 to 1935. This alliance was based on a compromise between some rural conservatives and urban liberal Qubequers. Sectors of the Church and the Clerical Nationalists would mostly support the Liberals, especially with their free market economic reforms, as well as with a more independent action from Westminster, while the Liberals would not question the authority of the Church in Quebec. This meant that even if it was slower than other Canadian regions, some progress was arriving in Quebec. With industrialisation, many Quebequers moved from the countryside to cities like Montreal and there was a hope this would mean that the church would start losing its influence, but as we saw with the Gecekondu this would not be the case.

Poor neighbourhoods of Quebecthat surged in the beginning of the 20th century. Picture by Mary Evans via the Library of Congress.

This is when the ideas of a specific need to be talked about: Lionel Groulx, a French Canadian historian and priest, and one of the ideological fathers of the Clerical Nationalists of the early 20th century. His writing talked about how urbanisation posed a threat to the social structure of rural French Canadians. The cities, especially Montreal, had been shown as a bastion of liberalism and secularism in contrast to rural Quebec. He espoused the idea that those social and religious structures that rule over rural Quebec should be moved to the cities together with its people. In the words of Groulx “Quebecers should conquer the city and not be conquered by the city·”. As was the case in Turkey all of these newcomers from the countryside would have a huge demographic impact on the cities, moving them from secularism to religious conservatism and breaking the political balance. This population that moved from the countryside to the cities also established themselves in very poor and badly administrated slums, especially around the industrial areas of Montreal. In these slums, without welfare, the Catholic Church would be the main element to tie the society together and it would greatly influence the politics of the cities. 

There would be, however, an event too big and destructive in Quebec that the Liberals would not be able to stop: The Great Depression, or as is known in Quebec “La Grosse Missere”.  This would lead to the rise of a new leader, a man who would later be called “Le Chef” or even “The Black King”, and for the purpose of our comparison, the French-Canadian Erdogan. 

The Black King and the Great Darkness

By 1936 the Liberals were suffering after 35 years in power in Quebec. The Great Depression had especially harmed their reputation since they refused to implement any welfare policy. The population of Quebec felt abandoned by the Liberal Party and the elites of Montreal. Not only that, but the rural populations that had moved to Montreal to find work felt particularly left out. As seen before, these farmers had brought their rural social structures and strong catholic faith to the cities which meant that the Church was reaching its influence over every group of Quebec society. 

Maurice Duplessis, a leader of the Quebec Conservatives, approached nationalist groups to form an alliance called the Union Nationale. In the election of 1936, Duplessis presented himself as the candidate for the rural and the working classes of Quebec, against the decadent and corrupt English elite of Montreal. He mixed conservative social values with a strong emphasis on welfare programs and with putting an end to the unregulated activities of big economic trusts, he was able to win a supermajority and formed a government. 

Maurice Duplessis, Premier of Quebec. Picture by Alain Lavigne via Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Economically, Duplessis implemented some of the basis of social programs since the Great Depression was seriously threatening the social fabric of the province. He established a minimum wage, and a state pension system, as well as a series of aid and investment programs for the rural population, who were the voter base of the Union Nationale. However, not much more than that was done,  Duplessis decided to follow the policies of the liberals and transform Quebec into a safe haven against the New Deal Politics that were being implemented throughout the United States and Canada. He invited American and English Canadian businessmen to establish themselves in Quebec. He reduced regulations and most importantly clamped down on trade unions severely, trying to create the most comfortable environment for foreign companies. 

When it came to social matters, Duplessis proved to be an extreme catholic reactionary. He ruled like an Authoritarian from day one, he purged police departments to fill them in himself with loyalists, he served as Attorney General at the same time as Premier, and he established the Padlock Act of 1937 in which any publication or group could be arrested or removed if it was deemed “Communist-inspired”, targeting journalists, opposition members and trade unionists.  He also tried to purge women out of the workforce and he gave the Catholic Church free reign over many aspects of society.  

In 1939 Duplessis would be ousted by the Liberal Party. However, with the beginning of the Second World War, the Liberals found themselves in front of a great problem: conscription. French Canadians were overall very much against the idea of being conscripted into the army due to the severe discrimination they faced. The Liberals ended up implementing it in 1944 to fight in the Second World War, which destroyed their popularity.  Duplessis had established himself as the defender of Quebec’s autonomy against Ottawa. He returned to power in 1944, a position he would lead until 1959. During this second premiership, Duplessis would once again return to his laissez-faire economic policies, bringing in more American and English Canadian capital to exploit the many natural resources that the Province possessed. He would also go back to his closeness to the Catholic Church, to which he returned the power over things like welfare and he would also return to his vicious anti-communist campaign. This time though he would also present himself as the great defender of the interests of French Canadians and Quebec autonomism, against the centralisation of Ottawa and “perversion and socialism” of Protestant Ontario. This shift to Quebec nationalism was represented when Duplessis adopted a new flag for the Province, that was composed of a cross representing Christ, and a blue background with four ‘fleur de lis’ representing the old France of the Ancient Regime.

Provincial Flag of Quebec, provided by the Quebec government page.

From 1944, Duplessis would present most of his policies (especially those unpopular ones) in a nationalist framework. The Province needed to have low debt and a successful economy to stand against Ottawa, for which a low public investment and a high presence of foreign capital were needed since it would guarantee a successful Quebecois economy. The defence of the role of the Catholic Church was presented as a defence of the identity of French Canada, and the defence of the traditional conservative values was presented as a defence of French-Canadian culture and society. Through the 1950s, most of  North America would experience what has been described as the Post War Prosperity, however, this would never reach Quebec. Duplessis condemned this new consumer culture, with its urban and secular values. His objective was to maintain Quebec as a different entity from Canada, not only politically but also socially and culturally. However, the issue was that despite the reactionary policies of Duplessis, society was changing. The people who migrated from the rural areas into industrial cities might have been religious and conservative but their children were starting to move away, and many who had the opportunity to go to university would start to deeply resent Duplessis’ traditionalism. People also started to resent the closeness that Duplessis had with businessmen. A good example of this was the asbestos miners strike in 1949.

In the end, however, the only enemy that Duplessis could not defeat was death. He would pass away in 1959, his death bringing the end of Clerical Nationalism. For many, he had come to symbolise regression, stagnation and corruption. After the 1960 election the Liberals would achieve a supermajority and the new young liberal leader, Jean Lasage would become Prime Minister. The authoritarian style and traditionalist policies of Duplassis would lead many of those who had lived under it to call his rule La Grand Noicure or The Great Darkness. 

La Revolution Tranquile 

The new government was formed by Jean Lasage, he was a new type of Liberal, a progressive liberal, and represented a breakthrough from previous Quebec political experiences. His mission was to modernise Quebec from the previous backwardness and stagnation that had existed under Duplessis and the Church. He and his government enacted a series of reforms intended to achieve this goal in two main sectors particularly: the declericalization of the social services and the creation of a Quebec welfare state. These reforms would be known later as la Revolution Tranquile or the Quiet Revolution

These reforms included the nationalisation of the energy services, from foreign companies and the creation of a Quebec welfare state, with the objective of solving the issues of poverty that deeply affected the nation. The state also started to implement social policies, such as healthcare and social housing, that were not dependent on the Church. These policies finally managed to increase the quality of life of the citizens of Quebec to the levels of other North American provinces. That is since Quebecers did not need the Catholic Church anymore, their allegiance to it started to slowly fade away. By 1980 the number of people attending Sunday mass had severely decreased and the Church had lost most of its political influence. 

It is also very important to mention the role that the youth had in ending the rule of the Union Nationale. By 1960 there was an entire generation of young voters that grew up under Duplessis, however, his values were not theirs and the fact that he kept imposing them without any regard to how the population was changing made him very unpopular. It is also important to remember that many of the youth were also angry at the pure hypocrisy of the Church and Duplessis. He would always side with big business and disregard completely the demands of the workers and miners who had led him to power in the first place. He was able to maintain power because he was a great fighter against conscription and people voted for him because he fought (or at least pretended to) against the attempts of the Canadian government to interfere in Quebec’s affairs. The youth, however, saw that one thing did not necessarily have to bring the other and started to look for new ways of doing politics.  The generation that had grown up in the slums of Montreal only had God and the alienation they felt from the Liberal elites made them choose Duplessis. The sons and daughters of that generation would later oust his party and destroy his legacy.

The Sessiz Devrim? 

After all of this, the question now stands: what can the rule of Duplessis and the Quiet Revolution tell us about Turkey? In many ways, Erdogan is the Duplessis of Turkey. His ideology is based on political Islamism with a strong emphasis on conservative values and his economics are based on a mixture of economic liberalism and an “Islamic” welfare state. Meanwhile, he is also using deep nationalist rhetoric to gain the support of those who might not be moved by Islamic values.

Similar to Turkey, Quebec was divided between a series of population centres that worked as the focus point of secular liberalism, while the countryside was the land where religion and conservatism were more prevalent. In both cases, the exodus of the countryside would break the balance and lead to the values of the rural populations taking over the country. 

The question now is if, in the next few years, we could see a Quiet Revolution happening in Turkey. In a way, some could argue, it already has begun: the youth in Turkey have already proven that they can organise and mobilise themselves against the abuses of the government, especially in cities like Istanbul or Izmir. It is also clear, same as the Quebec Youth of the 1960s, that the issue of faith is not as important for them as it is for their parents. Many Turkish youth do not follow the strict rules of Islam, the women do not wear headscarves and things like homosexuality tend to be much more accepted. Apart from that, there are also other indications that things are slowly changing for rural and working-class people, such as the fact that they are seeing their living standards go down with the corruption of Erdogan and its economic policies. This is very important because the end of the rule of the Union Nationale was not only caused as a backlash of the youth against radical social conservatism but also as a consequence of the economic stagnation, corruption and especially economic inequality that Duplessis caused. Erdogan has a similar situation in front of him, his policies have caused resentment and will haunt him for the rest of his mandate, and with a more secular youth he is not going to be able to cover his economic mistakes with moral dogma. 

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that change is already happening. The cities of Istanbul and Ankara which used to be AKP strongholds now have mayors from the CHP, and they have tried to enact new policies that break away from the one marked by Erdogan. He has tried to interfere in the affairs of these cities, but that has mostly caused resentment. However, as much as the mayors of cities like Ankara or Izmir try to change the politics, it would be of no use until Turkey has a new President. 

The elections of 2023 might have seemed like proof that the situation is not over and that Erdogan is still very strong. However, another issue played in the defeat of the Turkish opposition and that is the candidacy of Kilicdaroglu. He in many ways represented the regime before Erdogan, a regime of corruption, political chaos and economic failure. Despite the fact that Erdogan is not as popular as he used to be and many of his former voters would have no problem seeing him gone, very few of those (especially those who lived through the 90s) want to go back to the political situation that existed before him, and Kilicdaroglu represented that.

 In the same way that the Quebec Liberals needed someone new to defeat Duplessis, their insistence to present the same liberal leaders to elections in many ways helped him stay in power.  One of the main factors for this was that the leader of the liberals was Jean Lasage, a man who had virtually no connection to the leaders that had preceded Duplessis. He also presented himself as a new kind of politician. Kilicdaroglu, who is older than Erdogan did not represent that, so it shouldn’t be that big a surprise that he got defeated. If the Turkish opposition doesn’t want to wait until Erdogan dies and the AKP ends up in political infighting it would need to find a leadership that looks more like the voter: younger and ready for change.

There is also an element of nationalism to be considered. For many French Canadians, the only reason to vote for Duplessis was because he guaranteed the political independence of Quebec within Canada, against issues like conscription. The “national questions” so to speak in Turkey are much more complicated. There are four main issues to discuss: Cyprus and overall the relationship with Greece, the Kurds, the Syrian refugees and the Turkish diaspora. Unlike conscription in Canada, these issues are much more complicated to solve and are a cause of much bigger polarization. 

On the other hand, the European Union might be interested in an event like the Quiet Revolution happening in Turkey in the coming years. Many Turks wish to be part of the EU because it might contribute to the further modernisation and therefore secularisation of society. At the same time, many in Europe are cautious and even fearful of Turkey joining the block. However, from the left and right of the European political spectrum, the reason tends to be the same: the Islamic political culture in Turkey. 

If joining, Turkey would become the most populated member of the EU and also the poorest. Not only that but if we add that many Turks are politically Islamic conservative, this makes it a very uncomfortable position for many Europeans. Some of it could be seen as simply Islamophobia but at the same time considering that the population of the EU is overwhelming secular even those who are tolerant could see the potential clash of values in an EU that is trying to increase its integration. Not only that, but considering the democratic and rule of law problems that Turkey faces a potential EU accession could bring a lot of conflict with the European authorities.

However, if an event like the Quiet Revolution occurred in Turkey in the next 20 years, leading to a secular and Europeanised population then the Turkish accession could be more likely. If we use the example of Quebec, the Quiet Revolution did not only increase secularisation and reduced the power of religious authorities over politics, but it also led to a greater democratisation of political institutions and to a more open and free society. If Turkey underwent such a process then their accession could not be justified using a rationale of a clash of cultures and Turkey and its 85 million citizens could become EU citizens. 

Highlighted images: Chateau Frontenac by Bernard Gagnon via Wikpedia Images, and Hagia Sophia by Adil Wahid via Wikipedia Images